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Archive for the ‘horror’ Category

deadsouls_cvr
Once in awhile, though seemingly quite often for me, a book cover or synopsis catches your eye and that’s all it takes to send you hurtling down that literary rabbit hole. December is a month of wishes. Wishes for things under your Christmas tree/mistletoe like Gillian Anderson, and before the day is done there will be wishes for the New Year. And we could really, really use some good stuff for the new year, since 2016 has been a wee bit surreal (and that’s just saying it nicely). So when I came across Dead Souls on the “New Arrivals” rack I was intrigued and like a heroin addict that’s been working overtime at a heroin factory… I had to get my fix. What was all that bollocks about “wishes” about, you might ask? Stick around, mate.

Fiona Dunn is having a tough time in her relationship with some bloke named Justin and on one rainy night in Oakland (California) she sees him getting in a car with a strange blonde woman on his way to a “business trip” to Seattle. It is also important to mention that lady was standing in the rain, bare feet, in pajamas, and locked out of her own apartment. So what’s a bare-footed, rain-soaked, woman to do when she’s locked herself outside of her apartment? Seek solace in the nearest drinking hole. There she meets a strange, enigmatic fellow named Scratch who chats her up, buys her drinks and makes an offer for her soul with the obligation of special favour that will be demanded of her at anytime. Yes, you didn’t read the last part incorrectly. Being the avowed atheist, she is, she thinks it nothing more than small talk and goes along with it. And then the shit gets real … and strange. First, Fiona discovers that she sort of project herself, invisibly, into places and spy on people. Apparently, she’s always wished that she was invisible. And if that didn’t make her stop and pass rabbits, then there is Scratch’s strange ability to be able to contact her at any place at any time. And then … when things couldn’t get any more weird, Justin shows up … with that strange blonde who is actually his (yes) sister and it turns out that Justin is down with something terminal. As Fiona drives around California trying to assess the how much crazy pills she’s been taking, she comes across another strange fellow, taking photos in a cemetary, named Alejandro and he seems to fancy her. Turns out that Fiona and Alejandro has a lot in common: Scratch. He introduces her to a sort of support group called the Dead Souls (hence the name of the book), sort of a support group for folks that may have unwittingly sold their souls to the Devil. And quite the motley crew they are: Renata (a professor of queer studies that wished to be straight and pretty crapped on her career and former gay relationship), Gary (a tech startup founder who wished that his company traded well), Jasmine (a woman that wished for the gift of clairvoyance), and of course, Alejandro (who wished that his photos will make successful). Sounds like a cute version of Daniel Webster meets an intervention. Not quite. The book gets really dark faster than the Northeast in early fall and people and things aren’t all that they seem. And as people wait for that dreaded favour to come in, many try to solve their way out of their contract with Scratch only to find that they are all part of some sick Macheveillian game.

To call Fenn’s tale creepy would be like calling the Mona Lisa a drawing. It’s dark like night in the swamps and as vicious as the serpents that slither through it as every page turn keeps you biting your nails as you brace for revelations within revelations. Don’t expect any happy endings in this one … just maybe a few silver linings and that’s it. In some strange way it might explain some of the unspeakable things that happen in this world: active shootings, terrorism, strange politics, Kanye West, the Kardashians. But what do you expect … when you make a deal with the Devil. Sure he delivers … but when it’s time to pay those dues… that’s the killer. So just be careful when you’re at the pub and some hip bloke “playfully” offers to buy your soul, you might want to walk away from that one … regardless what you believe. Just saying, mates.

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bf_exorcism__cvr

Yes it is almost the end of August which is basically the end of summer. And though the summer ends, technically, in three weeks there is still time to make the beach and curl up with that really great beach book. Which brings me to this strange ditty.
It was another one of those strange books that stared out at me on the “New Arrivals” shelf. Now one would think that the title would be compelling enough to get me to read it (aside from the fact that cover looked like a page from my high school yearbook). Not quite. Until I read the synopsis on the back cover: “A heartwarming story of friendship and demonic possession”. Now for most, the mention of the word “heartwarming friendship” would be deal breaker and threat to one’s manhood. But it was the whole “demonic possession” thing in the same sentence that reeled me in. Aye, that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. To make things worse (or best), depending on your perspective, the book was rooted in the 80s with chapters using 80s song titles. Ah the glorious 80s: glasnost, MTV (that actually played music before proceeding screw up ever millenial mind out there), Just Say No, AIDS, New Wave music (kids, you missed out on some really good music), and Samantha Fox. So yes, being an 80s aficionado (and a teen during the 80s), I couldn’t help it and it broke all will power and any sense of decent judgement … I had to read this book. So with a sense of nostalgia … and the ghostly smells of Vidal Sasson and L.A. Looks in my mind I plowed ahead. Well, so much for the pleasantries and all that other bollocks. To the review , I say.
Set in Charleston, South Carolina (did I mention in the 80s) the book is centered around the lives of Abigail (Abby) Rivers and Gretchen Lang. Abby is from the poor and struggling side of the tracks, whilst Gretchen is from a conservative family that seem to have a decent amount of dosh. In fourth grade, Abby had the distinct privilege of being stood up by her classmates whom she had invited to her (get this) E.T. themed birthday party at the local roller boogie rink.Sadly, the only person that ever showed up to her party was Gretchen … with a Bible as a present. Seriously folks, what is the world coming to when people turn down free cake and ice cream at a roller rink that plays Journey? Yeah, I know sick.Bunch of tossers. And so began the friendship of Gretchen and Abby. Gretchen lives a sheltered life with possibly the most crappiest parents that spare very little effort to treat her like utter crap, though she lives for want of little. Abby, as she moves on in the higher grades, lives with tolerable parents and has a part-time job (like every working-class teen in the 80s) at the Dairy Queen. After all Avia sneakers, Atari 2600s and Jerri Curl hairspray don’t grow on trees. One weekend , along with several other friends, the duo decides to sleepover at motel. But to make things a bit more exciting one of the friends had brought along “party favours” to kick things up a notch: LSD. Yes, I know it is the 80s that has swamped most of our minds with images of crack and cocaine …LSD , not so much … but there it was. Needles to say, they all tried a bit and Gretchen had a bad trip, where she stripped off her clothes and ran away into some nearby woods. After searching for her, her mates had found her in a strange deserted house in the woods, and eventually returned her home. And that’s when the crap really start hit the fan. First, Gretchen starts having strange mood swings and though this is lost on the rest of daydreaming twits, Abby realizes that something is really wrong with her best friend. Then out of nowhere, Gretchen has become the popular girl and has slowly re-aligned herself with newer friends (think rich friends). And even though this seems as teenager re-inventing herself, Abby suspects all’s not well in Denmark. It is only after a revival crusade run by a group known as the Lemon Brothers (think the Jonas Brothers as evangelicals) passes though the town and is attended by both Abby and Gretchen, that Gretchen is pointed out as possessed by one of the brothers. Abby, eager to help her best friend, finds herself dealing with more than she can handle, as the demon (Andras) sets out to turn Abby’s life upside down: framing her in terrible and compromising situations. The most heart warming thing about this is that Abby never gives up on her friend, through it all and even engages in an exorcism prayer that is unlike anything you’ve ever read or ever graced a seminary. As I was reading the last few pages of this story, I couldn’t help myself from listening to the Scorpions “Send Me An Angel” that was being played by the local classic rock station … and somehow it all fit together. Yes, a Scorpion song got me all weepy. If My Best Friend were to be thought of as a song, it would be Bette Midler”s “Wind Beneath My Wings” … sung by Angela Gosow (from the death metal group Arch Enemy). Actually, since we’re talking Bette Midler, the best way to sum this story up would be Beaches meet The Exorcist. Aye, I know.
A great story and summer read, Hendrix captures the 80s teenage scene ever so perfectly … down to the lingo. For me it was almost as good as being back in the 80s. No internet, no selfies, no Kardashians … just new wave, Alf, Jeff Spiccoli, and so much good times. Hey brah, let’s party. I miss the 80s. Badly.

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jacobtracy_cvr

I across this book in my stacks and was immediately drawn to it. Did it whisper to me as so many other books seem to do, you might ask? Yes, and I don’t think I’ll ever need electro-shock therapy. I just might need to get out more. Possibly, date. Maybe.
Set in 1880 St. Louis, we are introduced to Jacob Tracy: a seminary school drop-out, and a veteran of the Civil War that has recovered from his war wounds and vicious morphine dependency. Ah yes, Mr. Tracy has the uncanny ability to see … and speak to ghosts. Along with his partner, a former slave named John “Boz” Bosley, they encounter the strange and enigmatic Sabine Fairweather who hires them for a job: to find a certain rosewood jewelry box that belongs to her. But in the Weird West there is no such thing as straight forward mission and some things are more than they seem. Soon Jacob and Boz are plunged in a world of ghosts, demons, werewolves and vampires as they do jobs for the enigmatic Fairweather. Aside from being their employer, Ms. Fairweather seems to have knowledge and abilities of a supernatural nature. It is what keeps Jacob drawn to Ms. Fairweather, since it seems that she might hold the clues to his true abilities. In every battle that Boz and Jacob encounter, there is one name that often surfaces: Josef Mereck.
Mereck runs a circus that employs people of various supernatural capabilities and even though, on the surface they are probably used to entertain, in the big scheme of things they are being used as supernatural weapons in the most terrifying ways.
Messinger in her debut novel has a good handle of the Weird West, from the lingo to the characters. It the Wild, Wild West in the most terrifying of ways and every page turned sucks you in as Tracy and Boz’s battles grow more intense and frightening towards the final meeting of Mereck.

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diviners_cvr

I’ve always looked at reading young adult books in public the same way I would walking into a Hello Kitty shop filled with middle-school teenage girls: with some apprehension and the feeling that I am violating some law. But since I am put in charge of the reading advisory for young adult at my station, I have no choice but to swallow all my apprehensions and unnerved feelings … and simply read some young adult books. Work, work, work. And so when The Diviners whispered to me sweet-nothings from the corner of a YA shelf, I knew I had found my book. It also occurred to me that when books started whispering sweet-nothings to me, that there is a critical need for me to go out more. And so we begin.

Set in the 1920, Bray introduces us to a delightful protagonist named Evie O’Neill. Yes, the good old 1920s: Prohibition, Clara Bowe, the jitterbug, speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, two-cent newspapers, and back-alley abortions. It starts with Evie, gathered with her friends at her home, in sleepy Ohio, playing with a Ouija board (and after countless horror films with this premise, it is needless to say that this a bad start) and ends up contacting an ominous entity named Naughty John. Yes, this all happens in the first chapter, but it is so delightfully sinister that it is all you need to suck you in. And it gets better.
What makes Evie O’Neill quite appealing is her charm, her intelligence, her brashness, her boldness and her bluntness. And on top of that, she’s got a mouth that writes more checks than her mind and body can cash. It is that mouth of her that gets her shipped off to New York to spend some time with her Uncle Will. Uncle Will runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (also famously known as the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies). Think Louis Vendredi from Friday the Thirteenth minus the part about making deals with the Devil and other such bollocks. Aside from the items displayed in the museum, the only thing that is more hair-raising in Evie’s encounters is the cross-section strange personalities she meets in New York City (not much has changed): Jericho (Uncle Will’s tall, handsome, and mysterious assistant), Memphis (a Harlem numbers runner, who has the ability to heal with his hands), Isaiah (the younger brother of Memphis, that goes into trances), Theta Knight (a Ziegfeld girl with a secret pass), and Sam Lloyd (a smooth-talking pickpocket with the uncanny ability to render himself invisible). And the list goes on, but I can’t have all the fun now, can I? Aye, that would make me a bloody tosser and less enjoyable read for you.
There are gruesome ritualistic murders that start occur in New York City as Naughty John materializes into the world … and Evie’s mind. Needless to say, Evie is a bit special. And as a dark mysterious force threatens the world with a frightening apocalypse on the night of a comet’s passing, these collection of characters race against time, and a white supremacy cult (from upstate New York) to defeat Naughty John and his plans. Spine-tingling terror and roller-coaster suspense, keeps you riveted and eager to turn every page, as you defy the need to eat, sleep, and take care of pesky bodily functions. And there are hints that the world (and Ms. Bray) is not quite done with Ms. Evie O’ Neill. Needless to say, I can’t wait. And YA has come a long from Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and the Twilght Saga (yes, I’m afraid I did go there).

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bazaar_cvr

As we plow headlong into 2016, I couldn’t help noticing the latest King book (finally!!!) sitting in my stacks and eventually … in my hands. Unlike many of his novels, this was an actual collection of stories: some scary, some downright disturbing, and a few that were pretty much WTF. Throughout the book, King would offer a “behind the scene” moment at the beginning of each story which was rather interesting. For some it was an eye opener, whilst others were basically fill in the blanks. The one common ground with all those behind the scene moments was that it gave the reader some insight to his genius/madness and I suspect it was but a mere peek through the curtains.
Best of all, Bazaar seemed geared toward engaging more than a few emotions, rather than the usual ones solicited by fear and suspense. The stories are a strange myriad: a stalled car, on a highway, that is a Venus fly trap for unwary humans; a sand dune on a small island that, mysteriously spells out the names of those that will soon die; an indecent proposal to a struggling couple of the twisted variety (and no, it is not quite like that Robert Redford/Demi Moore slap and tickle bit); a pink Kindle that predicts the future; a rich burn victim who realizes that pain is something that might be literally (lurking) in his head and elsewhere in his body; a news writer whose fake obituaries create real deaths and even more dire tragedies; the strange world of two families who have the strangest July Fourth fireworks competition. And there are more. Confused? Befuddled? Scared shitless? Tickled pink (are you kidding … uh, no)? Yes, all these emotions and thought processes will be addressed in reading Bazaar. In some parts, it might bollocks up your view of the world, scare you senseless, appreciate baseball (aye, you’re reading correctly), or even question how much acid did King drop back in the days. Premium King, as usual, with a story for (dare I say) everyone to curl up to on a warm El Niño winter night.

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findrs_kprs_cvr

It has been a very interesting summer, in terms of reading… that is, and I couldn’t help but notice the new Stephen King book sitting in the stacks, beckoning to me like a curvaceous Siren to a marrooned, randy sailor (wow, I seriously need to go out more). What can I say, perfect timing, yeah?
The new King book practically begins with a bang. A reclusive, iconic writer, John Rothstein, is the victim of a home invasion. But this is no ordinary home invasion. Led by Morris Bellamy, an obsessive fan, the object is, seemingly, the large amounts of money kept in the writer’s home safe, though to the Morris the real treasure is the pile of Moleskin notebooks filled with drafts of unpublished Jimmy Gold novels. After cold-bloodedly murdering Rothstein … and his accomplices, Morris hides his literary “booty” along with some piles of cash, only to be sent to jail (for life) on a totally unrelated crime. Something about a rape that he was to drunk to even remember. What a way for life to suck.
Several decades later, this “well-hidden” bounty is discovered by a young Pete Sanders who was simply wandering off the beaten path (literally) and his curiousity got the best of him. Pete Sanders family is enduring some tough times, since Pete’s father (apparently the bread winner) was injured in the Mr. Mercedes rampage (bloody hell, you say, a tie back to another King novel). Yes. And it gets better. So what does a young man do when he finds a significant amount of money? Instead of spending it on bling and other such bollocks, Pete does the “unthinkable” he anonymously mails portions of it on monthly (or was it weekly?) basis to (gasp!!!) his family in order to help them out of their financial crisis. Blimey, you say, a teenager that chooses to the most selfless thing with a large pile of money … King has sunk to a new terrifying low. Of course, good intentions aside, pillaged treasures soon finish and … some prisoners, despite the odds, get released back into society. And a certain convict is going to need his “hidden treasure” to fall back on. As the body count begins, a troubled Pete Sanders find himself embroiled with shady rare book dealers and eventually crosses path with Bill Hodges (yes, the retired detective from Mr. Mercedes). Also joining Hodges, is the boy wonder Jerome Robinson, an intelligent (now in college) black teenager who is a wisecracking, techie genius (also from Mr. Mercedes). Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for the suspense to rachet up at speeds that would redline your adrenaline guage, as the book races with break-neck speed towards a heart-pounding conclusion. Notable mention: Brady Hartsfield (aka Mr. Mercedes) also makes an appearance and even though he is physically incapacitated, there is something supernaturally brewing up in the mix. Alas, the saga of Mr. Mercedes is not quite over. And it is pure, premium King. Bloody fantastic.

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strain_cvrfall_cvreternalnight_cvr

Co-author: Chuck Hogan

Yes, it is a new year, so why not start it off with a bang. So there a triple review.
Guillermo Del Toro is known for his handiwork in films such as Hellboy I & II, Blade II and the ever-talked about Pan’s Labyrinth (which I must admit that I have not seen). So last summer when FX decided to premiere a series called the Strain and it was about vampires, I pretty much went into a bloody eye-rolling hysteria … that was until I found that it was being directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Even better, I found out that the series was based on trilogy: The Strain, The Fall and the Night Eternal. Now you’re probably wondering if the Evil Parrot has finally lost his bloody mind reviewing three books instead of one at time. In all honesty, these books are best enjoyed … serially. And they will be reviewed likewise … that’s how the Evil Parrot rolls. So enough with tbe bollocks and on with the review … shall we?

When a Boeing 777 lands on a JFK tarmac and just sits in complete radio silence for a long while, the airport officials suspect the worst. No, it’s not ebola … though compared to what was in store for the unwitting NYC population, ebola would have been a much prefered pathogen. Enter Drs. Ephraim Goodweather and Nora Martinez from the CDC to determine what was the cause. The discover a plane filled with “dead” passengers and few “survivors”. Also on the plane, and unknown to the passengers, is a very large box with delicate ancient carvings and strangely filled with dirt. So needless to say, the passengers are evacuated and the live ones are quarantined and the “dead” one carried to the city morgue. And then the fun begins. Add to the chaos is the super-rich, sinister Eldritch Palmer with ulterior motives, that …let’s just say … doesn’t have the best of interest for humankind. Sure enough, the FX adaptation may have added a few creative elements such as the foxy Euro-type female hacker that supposedly slows the Internet down (insert a big bloody eye roll here).
In first book, The Strain, we get to see the formation of a rag-tag group of what will become resistance fighters against the strigoi (that’s the word being used for vampires): Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, Dr. Nora Martinez, Prof. Abraham Setrakian (a man obsessed and with a past with dealing with the strigoi), Vasiliy Fet (a New York City rat exterminator, though more intelligent than he sounds) and Gustavo (a Mexican gangbanger). We are also introduced to the one known as the Master, who is the archnemesis and head vampire (or strigoi) that is viciously cunning as he is lethal. There is treachery, betrayal, the occasional hot sexual encounter (mostly between the docs) and the suspense practically clenches your sphincter.
In The Fall, our rag-tag goup is engaged in a constant game of cat and mouse as the strigoi population grows around them. It is during this period of time they learn two things: the Master can communicate telepathically with the roaming strigoi, hence he can track his enemies and secondly, there is the existence of a book called the Occido Lumen that holds the key to the Master’s origin and destruction. Of course there is race that is on to find the Occido Lumen. Now I’m sure you can probably guess what is going to happen. How it does it happen …well, well, well my dear readers you will have to find out on your. Yeah, I’m not going to be tosser and spoil all the fun for you now. To besides reading about it is the best part.
In The Eternal Night, the strigoi has populated the world and using various weapons they were able to create a disruption in the atmosphere where the Earth is covered by a polluted sky and sunlight is only available for a few hours (and that’s on a good day) daily. It has become a world where some humans have become collaborators in order to improve their own standing on the food chain (somehow this doesn’t shock me) and others simply become … sustenance. Aye, think of cows being milked … and you’ll get the idea on that last part. Now try to get a good night’s sleep with bollocks swimming in your mind. Though I suspect many of us have already watched the first season of The Strain, and like yours truly, just can’t wait for the second season to begin … and of course, decided to simply just read ahead. The books are just as intriguing and suspenseful as the televised adaptation, though I must admit that after having seeing the show I’ve carrying the faces of these actors attached the character through the entire trilogy. The Strain Trilogy hooks you in from the first chapter and keeps you breathless with anticipation to get to the other page to see what will happen next. It is the evolution of the vampire like you’ve never read about or seen (unless if you watched Blade II … which just happened to be directed by Del Toro) and makes the Cullens and the Voltari (or whatever) look like a bunch of flower-gathering-dancing-in-the-meadows nancies. There is violence (mostly quick, vicious and dirty), despicable human beings, surprising allies and climactic ending that will blow you way. In other words, just the book(s) you need to keep that adrenaline flowing. And for the most (as the immortal Martha Stewart would say) that is a good thing.

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